Reuters reported that China’s unwrought copper imports fell year-on-year in February to their lowest in 11 months, while copper concentrate imports rose to tie the all-time monthly record, signalling that the world’s top copper consumer is churning out more metal itself. General Administration of Customs said that arrivals of unwrought copper including anode, refined, alloy and semi-finished copper products came in at 311,000 tonnes last month. That is the lowest monthly total since March 2018. The figure was down just 0.6 percent year-on-year, customs said, and 35.1 percent from a bumper 479,000 tonnes in January 2019, a month that had three more days and likely saw restocking ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.

Growth in China’s manufacturing sector, in which copper is widely used, in February stuttered to its lowest since July 2016.

Ms Chris Wu, a copper consultant at CRU in Beijing, said the year-on-year import drop might have occurred because the arbitrage between London Metal Exchange copper and the Shanghai market to ship metal into China has closed. She said that “Some copper fabricators took longer than planned holidays for their operations last month – longer than last year.”

China’s imports of copper concentrate jumped 24.9 percent from a year earlier to 1.93 million tonnes in February, customs said, tying the all-time record set in September. The imports were also up 1.6 percent from January.

Smelter expansions have increased demand and competition for copper ore in China, with spot treatment and refining charges paid to smelters to process copper concentrate into refined metal falling sharply this year as a result.

China’s aluminium exports, meanwhile, stood at 343,000 tonnes in February, down a whopping 37.9 percent from January’s record high of 552,000 tonnes.

The figure is the lowest since February 2017, although customs said exports were up 9.7 percent year-on-year.